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Barry Guy

Publisher: Novello & Co

Concerto for Orchestra: "Fallingwater" (1996)
commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
35 Minutes
Programme Note
Barry Guy Concerto for Orchestra: "Fallingwater" (1996)
Fallingwater is a concerto for orchestra with a structure that reflects many strands of my compositional thoughts and performance practice developed through working with the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, New Orchestra Workshop (Canada) and aspects of the way that the City of London Sinfonia approaches music making.

These seemingly disparate areas unite under the title of Frank Lloyd Wright's unique house "Fallingwater", where the rationale for the building resolves the purely architectural with the sensuousness of nature, in a multi-layered virtuosic tapestry of concrete, wood, water and trees. My wish to present a kaleidoscopic piece articulating the solidity of the unified ensemble (concrete and wood) with a calculated freedom in the manner in which some of the music is executed (water and trees) found a ready resonance in Frank Lloyd Wright's building. These areas are expressed in the macro-micro concept of the full ensemble (Tutti) and Chamber Music subsections where varying degrees of responsibility are given to individual players to shape the music.

Crucial to the structure of Fallingwater is the long central section (mainly a string feature) marked Ceremony. This is the foundation and main core of the piece. Fanning out from this are short Chamber Music sections featuring the principal players on each instrument alternating with tutti sections that give prominence to a section of players within the overall picture. Ceremony has its origin in a Navajo Indian chant that observes the surroundings of a walking individual where the "outside" is focused upon in a conscious appreciation of the tactile and spiritual space around - a kind of ritualistic cleansing and meditation. A version of Ceremony has been developed as a solo violin and tape piece for the baroque violinist Maya Homburger. The performer has certain options as to musical priorities and hierarchies. The Fallingwater version invites each desk of strings to work in a chamber music way choosing the music appropriate to the surroundings, so the big picture is made up of many small decisions being enacted during the performance.

The overall structure is as follows:

Chamber Music I - percussion
Tutti - featuring woodwind
Chamber Music II - brass
Ceremony - featuring strings
Chamber Music III - woodwind
Tutti - featuring brass and percussion
Chamber Music IV - strings

Fallingwater was commissioned by The City of London Sinfonia with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

Barry Guy 1996

The title is an allusion to a Frank Lloyd Wright house built over a waterfall, in which the angled concrete structure of the building contrasts with the fluidity of the natural surroundings. There is the same duality in the music: brash, violent percussion, serene, bubbling strings, with, at the heart of this concerto for orchestra, a long ritual dominated by the strings, in which each desk of players has control over which passages of music it plays and when. The effect was often rapt, contrasting with the virtuosic outer sections of the work, all tackled by the City of London Sinfonia players with relish.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,01/10/1996
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